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Why did the Indian government ban 35 WhatsApp groups?

The Indian government has swiftly moved into action to ban 35 WhatsApp groups for allegedly spreading fake news about the Agnipath scheme.

The Indian government banned 35 WhatsApp groups for allegedly spreading fake news about the recruitment scheme— Agnipath— announced for the armed forces, according to a tweet by ANI. The scheme will see the government recruit nearly 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers annually, and most will leave after serving four years.

Why it matters: The Union government’s controversial scheme has come under a lot of criticism leading to widespread protests which have often turned violent. The banning of WhatsApp groups can be seen as another overreach of government’s powers.

Which ministry issued the order: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued the order after the Ministry of Home Affairs sent its input, Economic Times reported.

Why was the order issued: The WhatsApp groups were used to coordinate protests which resulted in violence at certain places, the business daily explained, citing sources.

How many members were there in this group: The government has revealed details about the order but the ET said that some of these groups had nearly 300 members.

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Which Act was used to issue the order: The orders were issued under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

  • It gives the Union government emergency powers to take down content or groups on social media if it deems it necessary or expedient to do so in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India.

How is the government dealing with fake news: The citizens have been urged to report groups that they believe to be spreading false information to the Press Information Bureau’s fact check team on the following number— 8799711259.

What were the other measures taken by the government: The government resorted to several measures including shutting down the internet in several states such as Bihar and Haryana.

  • Bihar was one of the states where protests took a violent turn. The internet services were suspended till June 19 in the following districts:
    • Kaimer,
    • Bhojpur,
    • Aurangabad,
    • Rohtas,
    • Buxer,
    • Samastipur,
    • Lakhisarai,
    • Begusarai.

What kind of groups have been banned in the past: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) blocked 16 YouTube news channels and one Facebook account by invoking emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 in April this year.

  • The government claimed that these channels were found to be spreading ‘fake news’ on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which was aimed at jeopardizing India’s foreign relations with other countries.
  • The government has blocked more than 100 channels so far using powers granted under the IT Rules, 2021.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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